Friday, February 20, 2015

"Pushing the envelope" again....

Monday night we had a snowstorm...with apologies to those buried in the heavy snow areas of the northeast US, it was "only" about 5" deep.   I had gone outside early in the morning, in my women's jogging suit and a turtleneck, to move the cars around and put the iced-up, snowy one inside the garage to begin to melt off.   And while I was busily doing that, a guy and his 3 boys pulled up in front of our place and piled out of their 4WD stretch pickup, with their shovels.

Since they were fresh-looking (translation not cold-soaked and covered in snow), I asked how it was that they chose to stop at my place..."Well, Ma'am, I saw that you were moving cars around and might need the help." "Thanks, gentlemen, I really appreciate your stopping. But first I want to make sure you're sent by the homeowners association, as I don't want to pay extra for a service I've already paid for." They waffled a bit, but gave a believable answer, so I said "as long as I don't pay twice, go ahead. And I really appreciate it."

One man and 3 boys made short work of the snow, even the stuff the plow pushed up from the street. They got into their truck and drove away. If they weren't from the homeowners' association, they were simply helping a damsel in distress. And we didn't have to pay. (But I have their license number just in case it becomes an issue!) Fun part is - as of lunchtime,  nobody else had their sidewalks or driveways shoveled...unless they had done it themselves.

I mentioned the "Ma'am" part to my wife.  Surprisingly, she didn't take exception to it - "as long as they did our shoveling for us. It's like getting help with our luggage when we're on trips." Maybe this is a good sign?

When I came back inside, I changed into my long black jumper dress, black tights and gray turtleneck. Later, I plan to shuffle cars again...this time I won't change... and see if she objects!

So a while after lunch,  I went into the garage again, to move the snow-covered car (which was slowly melting clean in the garage) out to the driveway, to let it get rid of the rest of the snow outside...because the sun was warm.  And I did it in my jumper dress and turtleneck, with black tights, but the top half was covered by a light jacket...   In the process I knocked whatever snow was still on the car roof, off into the snow piles by the driveway.   There were no comments from my wife about my attire, and no "stink eye."   

Later, about 4 pm, I pulled on my jacket again, as we went out to put the cars back in their original positions.  I was still wearing my dress, and spent a few minutes shoveling some missed spots on the driveway and front sidewalk...with no comments on my attire from my wife.

Is this a positive thing?  I think so, though I've been out in the garage in a dress before.  And even out to the front yard.  But this was my longest foray by far.  She probably was banking on the fact that nobody was around to see me in a dress, even though I was in plain view.  Some neighbors drove by and waved...I waved back.  She saw.  There may be fallout at the next neighborhood gathering...if so I'll deal with it at that time.  But for now, no problems - the topic is silent.

And I'll try to push that envelope again with the next snow.

For now I'll leave you with a couple of pictures.  First is the view from the Bridge of the NS Savannah, which I visited last October.

And second is yours truly at the helm of the Savannah.  I blurred the faces of others around me, to protect their identity.

It definitely was a fun day, both then - and now!


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentines Day & "The image of a girl"...

Happy Valentines Day to everyone!

When I walked into the nail salon the other day, feeling more than a little bit self-conscious with my shaving problem and complete lack of suitable makeup, there were two techs and one customer.  "Hi Miss Mandy..."  And the customer looked up and said hi as well.  My tech had me sit down one seat away from the customer.  She was almost finished, and we both watched the telly intently as the tech started on my hands.   Nothing outstanding occurred while the customer was there.

A few minutes after that customer left, a sixtysomething lady came in and they sat her down next to me.   And right away, she started chatting with me about the weather.  I used some semblance of a femme voice at that point, and got the feeling as we talked, that she was fully accepting me as a woman.  The nail tech addressed me as "Miss Mandy"several times, which added to the aura of femininity.

It seems the lady's daughter and son-in-law live in Boston.  So I got to hear about how bad it it there...and I was able to share a danger story from the morning news about the possibilities of roof collapse.  Since her kids have a house, she was going to make sure to relay that to them after her manicure was done.   And she confided that she was surprised a woman would know about such things.   I said "Thanks to the morning TV" and then let it drop...

When my nails were done, I held out my fingers to show her.  Without any hesitation whatsoever, she asked the tech about "her pretty nails."  Which got her the tech's official description,  Then she asked me questions directly, such as how I like them, how long I've worn them, and how long they last. So there was no doubt in her mind as to my gender.  I was a girl.   And the lady seemed perfectly comfortable around me.

I guess I sufficiently exhibited "the image of a girl."  However, I didn't "feel" at all girly, and hadn't even planned on a femme experience...I was just at the salon to get my nails done, wearing one of my everyday outfits.  I find that I'm very comfortable in my feminine appearance, since my wardrobe is 100% women's...  For now I'm in pants, but perhaps someday skirts will be included.  Time will tell. 
However, at this point, with me in pants and a top, my wife is fine with my appearance wherever we go.  

Here's the outfit I wore at the nail salon:

My entire salon visit was so be recognized as a woman, in spite of the major flaw I was unable to avoid that day.  What Marian and several other of my readers have previously mentioned - namely, that if a few good cues are present, even substantial issues are often overlooked, is obviously correct.   And it was very affirming.

On the way home, I stopped in to get gas at the self-service pumps.  Unfortunately the pump I chose ate my receipt, so I had to dash inside to get it from a clerk.  I wasn't even carrying my purse.  A pair of guys stopped and held the doors for me on the way in.  "Thank you, guys!" "You're most welcome, Ma'am."   Once inside, the clerk said "May I help you, Ma'am?"  "The receipt for pump 9 please."  "Here you go.  Have a nice day, Ma'am."  And a twentysomething guy darted ahead of me on the way out, to hold the door for me.  I guess chivalry is not dead...and I obviously didn't need a purse to be seen as a woman.

But little did everyone know...that with their help, I certainly was having a nice (no, truly wonderful) day!  (And when I got up that morning, it hadn't even been a figment of my imagination!)

I leave you with this picture of the rehabilitated historic Harpers Ferry, WV railroad station (still in use), taken from the rear window of the last car of Amtrak's Capitol LTD, train 30 as it starts across the Potomac River bridge, enroute eastbound toward Washington, DC.   Notice the little shed on the right?  That's a stairwell and tunnel, to access the station from the westbound tracks without the danger of being hit by a train (notice the limited sight distance beyond the station to the west...)




Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Virus (but not on the computer).

It's been a rough seven days.

Last Friday at noon, I went for my half-mile daily walk - no, not outside, much too cold and windy - in the basement (a certain number of trips around the basement equals a certain number of steps, which approximates a half-mile) to try to get some exercise.  I never have any problems with such walks...but that day, came upstairs feeling undescribably peculiar, not at all normal.  After a smaller-than-usual lunch, the problem became plainly evident - I hadn't run fast enough to outdistance whatever gastrointestinal virus is spreading itself around.

Without providing graphic "TMI" for you, and believe me, there was plenty, let's just say "That's all, folks," for the duration.  Other than required trips to the necessary room, and a couple short forays to the computer, I was down for the count until Monday morning, when I began to feel a bit better and spent more time out of bed.  My wife was very helpful, but as I began recovering Monday, she found we had shared the virus, and the patient became the caregiver...fortunately her version didn't keep her "down and out" as long as mine.  I believe I had the 72 hour version and she had the 24 hour one.

End result is:  nothing got done around the house for the better part of a week, as we tried to keep each other going...fortunately we had everything we needed,  and nobody was forced to make a "store run" under such health conditions.

One of my main issues (besides sleeping a lot) was the inability to eat or drink anything for 2-1/2 days.  This was a two-edged sword.  I dehydrated AND lost weight, removing what was left of the weight a bad medication caused me to gain a few weeks ago, plus some.   And the nurse I called at the doctor's office said I hadn't lost enough to be in the "needs medical attention" category, so I just had to ride it out, since viruses don't respond to antibiotics.  We've all heard it many times before: "If you take nothing, you'll be fine in 7 days.  I can give you antibiotics, and you'll be fine in a week."    It's working that way.

Another issue was that my hands were much shakier than normal for a few days. Amazingly so.  This turned out to be a big problem when shaving.  As I improved, I knew I had to try going out and see how a short trip to the nail salon would work, before I jumped back into the daily routine.  Try shaving (while shaking) sometime.  I'm the poster child for "It didn't work well."  After patching up the nicks, slathering on the antibiotic cream, and waiting till the next day, I tried shaving with my old electric razor.  That helped with the nick situation.  But then I remembered immediately why I wasn't still using the electric:  I had to shave about every two hours to keep the facial rain forest down to a gray and black, scratchy shadow.

That left me completely uncomfortable with my feminine image, though I had little choice in the matter.  I just wasn't ready to grab tissues, styptic pencil and antibiotic cream to stop the bleeding a second day...and had to finally get moving again.  Plus, my nails really needed done.  So, out of the garage I went, regardless.  The image of a stirrup leggings, pantyhose, flats and a turtleneck.  With a VERY rough face....   Yes, I shaved in the car again in an adjacent parking lot, before going into the salon, and reapplied a little concealer to the damaged areas - it was the only thing I could do.

"Here goes nothing - d**n the torpedoes."   And the car door slammed behind me...

I leave you with a peaceful early-morning scene from the high desert, westbound, taken from the moving train on my (nearly) cross-country jaunt:

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

It was fun!

The convention was fun…     As always., there were lots of seminars and activities…plus some sightseeing.   And, of course, working at the registration desk and socializing.  Plus, yours truly enjoyed a short sightseeing tour with the girls.  

For the week, my attire was androgynous – denim leggings, tunic sweaters/tops with black tights or nude pantyhose, purse and flats (or ankle boots).  I didn’t wear makeup at all, though I wore Mom’s necklace and bracelet the whole time, and her stirrup leggings one day at the hotel.    Following is my typical front of the classic Reno sign.

 Me, under the legendary Reno sign...

Where else but out west, could one find scenery as brilliantly spectacular as the following  examples?   Certainly not from 37,000 feet!   It takes a train (or as in the second pic below, a touring coach).

 Rugged landscape at Sunrise...

                                                                                         From a bus tour into the Sierra Nevada mountains.

More snow-capped peaks in the Sierras.

I spent a lot of time at the registration desk, and most of the attendees knew me.   Few, if any, of the attendees specifically "miss-identified" me…I was simply addressed by my first name (which was on my name badge for those who didn't know me.)  That was expected.   What wasn’t expected: the number of times that restaurant wait staff, hotel staff and others often (I didn't count, but probably in excess of 75% of the time) referred to me as “Ma’am” - even in the presence of other attendees and my friends.   

Six things truly surprised me from this excursion:

1.  None of my friends within earshot questioned when others used female forms of address for me.  That issue seemed to be ignored by everyone.   Do they just tolerate my appearance?  Are they secretly suspicious that "something is going on?"  Or do they just assume that it’s my hair, nails and purse, or my "now female" first name, which confuses people?  I guess I’ll find out someday, if someone is forward enough to broach the subject.  If not, I may never know….

2.  In the elevator at the hotel, an unknown woman  (who was with her husband at the time) took an immediate interest in my flats.  She asked me to tell her about them, so I fell into the conversation in my best (but none too good) female voice.   And the husband didn’t think anything of it…we were just two women doing girl talk.

3.  One of the local female convention staffers (someone I hadn’t known previously) was at the registration table when I took the seat beside her, to pitch in.  We weren’t officially introduced, but she seemed to recognize my true gender despite my first name.  Before long, though, something changed.   We were both chatting and laughing about things, just like a couple of girls.   Passers-by (who were not part of our group) almost always said “good morning, ladies.”   And she finally opened up to me, talking about a man who hit on her the night before, once the registration desk had closed. (I couldn't defend his actions....the guy sounded like a real scumbag, looking for a free one-night-stand.)  Before the convention was over, she and a girlfriend took me out for a short sightseeing ride around town,  which is where my picture (with the Reno sign above) was obtained.

4.   I still marvel that I can often be interpreted as a woman, even when I’m not attempting to dress and not wearing makeup.  For example, waitstaff at restaurants, and train crews.  However,  on the way home, the crew on the one Amtrak train we ride a lot recognized me from our previous trips (that's why I'm careful where I dress), and I heard the dreaded "S" word a lot.  Ugh.

5.   It was a bit of a shock that two different female attendees (well-known to me) wanted to talk about my relatively long nails, since mine were longer than theirs and they saw that I was typing successfully.

6.   Perhaps the most surprising thing was that one male attendee (also well-known to me), was very quiet at this meeting...didn't talk to me very much.  This was the man who (perhaps intentionally?) addressed me as "Ma'am" at one point in last summer's meeting.  Interesting.  More on this as it develops...

Although I was mightily disappointed that the “girlcation” part of my trip had to be canceled, during the convention I discovered that several attendees who know both my wife and me, would have been on the trains from Reno to LA.   And one would have been in the same sleeper as me on the train from LA toward New Orleans.  Good thing I found out - talk about the big surprise of walking into the station or onto the train in a dress, and finding one or more well-known friends there, or worse yet, in the same car.  This would NOT have been a good thing, and would have been a disastrous involuntarily outing.   It seems like things always work out for the best...

But in one grand affirmation of my femininity (despite hearing that dreaded "S" word on the prior train):  as I was detraining from the commuter train in Baltimore, the female conductor asked "Young lady, can I help you with your bag?"  At that point I already was lifting it out myself, so I replied "no thanks, hon, but I really appreciate the offer!"  (In "Bawlmer" anyone can call anyone of either gender "hon" without offense...)  Now, I'm not at all young, but I was extremely pleased about the "young lady" part., a big first!  And to think, I was even dressed androgynously....unfortunately, wearing a dress wouldn't have been appropriate that day, either!

All in all, a fine finish to a wonderful excursion!   And I look forward to going on another someday soon....


Sunday, February 1, 2015


Truly westward at last!

Finally I was aboard Amtrak’s California Zephyr… bound for my destination - Reno, Nevada.  It departed from Chicago “on time,”  with about 14 folks I  know well, most riding aboard the same sleeping car.  I enjoyed seeing them again, since last year I was not able to attend this meeting.

For a while, the group gathered in the “sightseer lounge” car (think traditional full-length dome car, though it isn’t quite like one of those.)  That gave a good vantage point for looking up, and also due to its position in the train right behind the baggage car, a view to the front as well.  That's quite unusual in today's passenger train world.

From Denver to Winter Park, the views were spectacular and ever-changing, from sun to clouds, lack of snow to snow cover,  blowing snow to falling snow, and wind to calm.  As we climbed the grade to the continental divide,  snow levels increased, though not to the amounts desired by residents of water-starved states to the west.     And we passed through the “tunnel district” which has 28 short tunnels shoehorned into 30 minutes of time!  

At the summit lies Moffat Tunnel, approximate maximum track elevation 9239 feet above sea level.  It’s over 6.2 miles long and takes about 10 -12 minutes to traverse the distance.  The shot below would not have been possible with other positions of the dome car in the train. 

The following picture is of the east portal of the Moffat Tunnel, in the snow.

Next are some pictures of sights seen enroute west on my excursion.  Here is Glenwood Canyon, in Colorado.

And one of the train at the Glenwood Springs (Colorado) station.   This is a lovely resort town I'd really enjoy visiting someday...

Next is the arid high desert at sunrise.  The light on a clear day at sunrise is always so warm and photogenic:

And finally...we arrived at our destination:  "Reno – the biggest little city in the World."

There were even a few holiday lights near the casinos…

And, before you ask...I didn't lose any money there.  If you don't play at the casino, you can't win.  But you can't lose, either!

There's more to follow…